Practicing Presence

David BennerThis year, one of the most thought provoking books I read was Presence and Encounter by David G. Benner. Presence is a powerful word. It is a very simple and profound word, and in the last year, it is word that has reshaped my thinking about how the church should minister in the the world. It started when I heard David Fitch and Chris Smith speak on how the church should be present in the neighborhood. I encountered presence again when Dr. Phil Kenneson presented at the Slow Church conference. He said that we do not have anything more precious to give each other than our own presence. Now, David Benner’s new book Presence and Encounter has added even more depth and weight to the idea of presence. Benner shows how profoundly important it is for us to practice and experience presence in our lives. He writes, “the most vital and significant moments in life are moments of encounter.” [1] In order to make encounter possible, we have be present and experience presence.

For being a relatively short book, it is contains a deeply powerful message. Although at times what Benner writes is complicated because of some philosophical language, it is challenging nonetheless. Most are seeking life change, and most seek it by adding more to their lives. We are told that that if we only had this thing or went to this seminar, then we could be changed. The truth is, true transformation starts with being present and will lead us to encounter with the divine. Benner writes, “All encounters—with other people, with our own depths, or with nature—are mediated by Presence, and that presence is the being of Christ. While this presence is often anonymous, it shouldn’t be any surprise that every now and then the cloak of anonymity slips off and we recognize the Christ who stands before us and with us.” [2] Presence is such a powerful idea, but most of us miss it everyday. David Benner’s book presents us with a message that we all need to hear. [3]

Because this was such and impactful book for me this year, I’m beginning 2015 with a look at practicing presence. In a sense this is my New Year’s resolution. I want to be more intentional about being present in all areas of my life. I’m going to spend the next 4 weeks sharing with you about how I plan to practice presence.

[1] David G. Benner, Presence and Encounter: The Sacramental Possibilities of Everyday Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2014), xiii.
[2] Benner, 111-112.
[3] Read the my full review of Presence and Encounter at http://erb.kingdomnow.org/david-benner-presence-and-encounter-review/#more-15025

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